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Saturday, April 28, 2012

High-rise living and the factors that work for you

In a month or so, a relatively new developer will be officially launching his medium-rise serviced apartment project in Petaling Jaya. This will be his second project, his first being a commercial block in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. This developer is building a home for multi-generational families as he and his partner believe that being Asians, there is always that desire for parents to live near or next door to their grown-up children and grandchildren.

In many ways, he is right. The relationship dynamics between parents and children, and between grandparents and grandchildren, are different. There is something about the presence of grandchildren that lifts the spirits of grandparents.

The demise of the extended families where three generations stay together under one roof and keep an eye on each other has led to many social family woes, not to mention the need for domestic helpers.

As more Malaysians opt for high-rise living some for security reasons, others for the facilities it offers the issue of how the elderly cope with condominium living has never really been examined. But it is a very pertinent subject because high-rise living is here to stay, and will become the norm as the country grows and progresses. This is particularly obvious in the Klang Valley.

About 10 years ago, a couple of reputable developers commented that to build a high-rise project with the elderly in mind would pose a huge challenge.

They said that cost, materials, design and layout would have to be carefully thought of and scrutinised. Door frames would have to be wider, steps would have to be done away with to be replaced with ramps. The fittings and shower doors would have to accommodate and suit the elderly. Tiles would have to be non-slip. The list was endless.

Their reasoning was, “why would I want to incur extra cost and accept a lower margin when I can just build a block for a young family and get a higher margin of profit?”

If developers were to take this stand, what will happen to all the people who live in condominiums today?

When a developer considers a project, the customers' profile is usually that of a young family.

Because of this, their focus towards aesthetics and the look and feel of the place become their all-important criteria, with form taking precedence over function.

The first issue is the physical aspects of the place. The second is the cost of maintenance. Even if can afford the monthly maintenance, the physical aspects of the unit may be a deterrent.

Recently, a friend in her 60s left her studio apartment to move into a two-room unit. She wanted the extra space as well as the basement car park that came with the new unit which her previous unit did not have.

Very often, when shopping for a home, there is a tendency to just consider the location and affordability. While these are over-riding considerations, if affordability is not an issue, it may be prudent to consider a project that will grow with you. That means a project that is flexible enough to cater to your needs through the ages.

That may come across as a tall order. But it is food for thought. In other words, it cannot be just a neatly arranged pile of bricks. There has to be some differentiating factors.

Which takes us to the sort of high-rise residentials that are being launched nowadays. Many of today's projects do not have any differentiating factors. That means an over-riding salient feature that sets it apart from the rest.

In the KLCC vicinity, for example, there is only one condominium which sits on a 50-acre park. Although the park is not part of the grounds, residents are able to access the park without having to drive. The same applies to another project in Sentul West, which is adjacent to a golf course-turned-park.

When buying into a high-rise, consider the factors that work for you. It may be an area that is close to your network of friends and family. Or it can be an affordability issue.

Particularly if you are buying to stay, it may be wise to consider what works for you, rather than just opting for a place because it is available.

If low-rise living within a three-minute drive to the KLCC is an important factor, there is something along Jalan Kia Peng. If living near a park and walking your dog is a criteria, then there are quite a number of choices in the Kepong vicinity. If living near some of Petaling Jaya's most popular and upscale amenities is important for you, there are quite a number of condominiums in Bandar Utama and Mutiara Damansara. Whatever these over-riding factors may be, they are personal to each of us.

Having said all that, there is one high-rise living concept that has been overlooked by both home buyers and most developers today a project that will serve as a sanctuary for all seasons, and one that grows together with you.

Assistant news editor Thean Lee Cheng says most of us will have to grow old in our pigeon-hole which makes it all the more important for developers to build with the elderly in mind.

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)

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